This year’s Fairhope First Quality of Life Award winner left quite a mark on Fairhope, particularly for one weekend in November of 2015. Thanks to an idea and leadership efforts from artist Gaye Lindsey, thousands of bright red clay poppies bloomed around the Fairhope Veteran’s Memorial for Veterans’ Day last year.
Working with several hundred volunteers of all ages — most of whom had no prior experience creating art with clay — and the support of the Eastern Shore Art Association, Gaye Lindsey oversaw the production of more than 3,000 clay poppies, glazed and mounted on iron stems, for the display titled Poppies for Veterans: Symbols of Sacrifice.
“I was initially inspired by an installation I saw at the Tower of London the previous year,” Lindsey said. “That exhibit, called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,’ included 888,246 ceramic red poppies, each one to represent a British or Colonial serviceman killed in World War I. We weren’t working toward any set figure like that, but we estimated the number we would need to make a memorable, beautiful installation around the memorial.”
In addition to time spent supervising the poppy-making sessions at the Art Center, Lindsey spent countless hours talking to organizations and news media outlets to raise funds and awareness for the project. All proceeds from the sale of the poppies — which were sold one at a time to individuals or by the dozen to schools, businesses, and organizations — goes to support local veterans.
The sale of fiber and paper poppies also contributed to the cause and in late December 2015, Lindsey and ESAC representatives presented a check for $40,000 that will be used for Baldwin and Mobile County veterans in need. The funds will be distributed through the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort Foundation. Any local veterans organization is invited to nominate a project or person to receive help.
Lori DuBose with Fairhope First called the project “an amazingly beautiful way to honor our veterans in Fairhope style,” and Joe Birindelli, who nominated Lindsey for the award, says the project was a wonderful, unique way to help local veterans.
“When Gaye first came to us with the idea, we really liked it, as did everyone else we talked with about it,” Birindelli said. “Gaye had our full support, but she really pulled it all together and got more than 300 volunteers to help with it. It was a tremendous amount of work for a great cause and Gaye Lindsey is well deserving of this recognition.”
Lindsey says that the many volunteers who helped are the ones who deserve the real recognition.
“I’m honored, of course, but I was just the catalyst for this,” Lindsey said. “What most impressed me was how so many different people and organizations came forward to help our veterans. There was such an outpouring of support and great camaraderie among all who helped in any way.”
A resident of Fairhope since 2007, Gaye Lindsey grew up in Bay Minette and graduated from Baldwin County High School. She got her B.S. degree in mathematics from Furman University, and her M.A. from The University of Virginia. She taught high school math for nine years before becoming a computer systems analyst at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. In 1996 she became a disbursement officer at the World Bank, managing the financial aspects of the bank’s loans to Southeast Asian countries.
In Fairhope, she has been on the board of the Weeks Bay Foundation, has volunteered for Alabama Coastal BirdFest, and is currently on the board of the Eastern Shore Art Center. She drives Meals on Wheels for Ecumenical Ministries and enjoys traveling, bird watching, and pottery in her spare time.
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